Monday, July 27, 2009

Why The Japanese Are Way Cooler Than Us Americans

Perhaps a bit overstating there, but in many ways it seems true. For example, Americans created baseball, and it is our national pastime – but even though we have always been rather dominant in the sport, once an actual world championship was created (the World Baseball Classic), Japan showed the world who’s got game (they’ve won both tournaments so far). That’s just cool.

Know what else is cool? Studio Ghibli. I mean, these guys are just the absolute greatest at what they do – and what they do is make awesome animated films.

… I’m looking at that last sentence and it’s not doing it for me. “Awesome” is a word that simply gets bandied about too much, and has lost its punch. Ok, how about this: Studio Ghibli makes films that will instill a wholly childlike sense of awe and wonder in you, and make you wish that the film never ends so that you never have to go back to the real world. Alright, I like that better, but it still doesn’t do them justice. The films these guys put out there just exude a coolness on a level that no American animation even comes close to – not even our mighty Pixar.

Helmed by the masterful Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli has created some of the most wonderful films (and think about that word a minute – wonderful … FULL of WONDER) the world has ever seen. The films are so wildly successful in their native Japan, that Disney secured rights to dub them in English for North American release. If you’ve ever seen a Japanese movie dubbed in English, you might think this is a terrible idea – but in their defense, Disney does the right thing by Miyazaki’s films, hiring the right actors to get down the rightly translated dialogue. While I usually insist on watching anime in Japanese with English subtitles, Disney’s dubs of Miyazaki’s films are a pleasant exception, and are excellently done. They are even so well received here that Spirited Away won the Academy Award for best animated film in 2002.

Last year, Japanese audiences were treated to Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli’s newest film – and the slow process of properly translating the script, finding the right actors and redubbing it in English has finally come to fruition for Disney, who will be releasing Ponyo on August 14th. Check the trailer, then get the family together and tell them not to make plans for August 14th!

- Goodchild

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